French Bread

French baguette and round loaf on pan

This recipe makes two pounds of dough (two extra-large baguettes).

White flour*193 g1 3/4 cups (fluffy)
Water193 g7/8 cup
White flour*387 g2 1/2–3 1/2 cups (3 1/2 only if it is fluffy)
Water213 g1 cup
Yeast3 g3/4 tsp
Salt12 g~2 tsp
*White flour can be all purpose flour, bread flour, or a 50/50 mix

• Mix poolish ingredients the afternoon/evening before making your dough
• Take the poolish temperature and decide where the bowl should be placed for it to rise; 75°F is ideal and can stay on the counter in a 70°F room
• It rises for 12–14 hours in 70°F room

• Weigh out ingredients separately
• Mix yeast into flour
• Add poolish and almost all water and mix ONLY to incorporate ingredients; add all water if needed
• Cover and let it sit 15–30 minutes (this is the autolyse)
• Add salt and knead until “done” (do a window test); add flour as needed but keep dough flexible**

Rising (Fermentation)
• Place dough in oiled bowl and take temperature
• Cover and let rise until puffed up and full of gas (about 1 hour for 75°F dough)
• Punch down and fold dough; cover and let it rise again (this step is optional)

Shaping and Final Rise (Proofing)
• Preheat oven to 450–500°F
• Divide dough in two for two baguettes or keep in one piece for a large boule
• Pre-shape; cover loosely and let pre-shapes rest until relaxed
• Shape into final shape***
• Put onto parchment-lined pan (or couche with cornmeal/semolina underneath) for proofing
• Cover using container or covered rack; don’t cover it tightly with plastic wrap to avoid dough sticking or messing its shape
• Let rise somewhere warm until full of gas (about 45 minutes)

• Score (cut) the dough and steam it by wetting the surface
• Quickly put dough in oven and turn temp to 450°F
• Test for doneness with thermometer: 190°F

**Add herbs or grated cheese to dough here, at the end of kneading; ~1/4 c. fresh herbs or 4 Tbsp. dry herbs is an estimate

***I’m not including detailed shaping instructions here; shaping involves smacking the dough to remove gas and performing a series of folds that stretch the dough into a tight shape without ripping it

Here are the amounts to use if you don’t have time for a poolish:

White flour100%580 g4–5 cups
Water70%406 g1 3/4 cups
Yeast0.7%4 g1 tsp
Salt2%12 g~2 tsp

Scoring reminder:

To get traditional “lemon” shapes (top), score the dough in parallel overlapping lines (bottom), not across the baguette (middle):